About.com Cuts 22 Positions in Sales and Other Departments

About.com has cut 22 positions as the recession continues to cast a pall over the display ad market.

The layoffs hit many departments at the New York Times subsidiary, including sales, client services, marketing, editorial, and product management. A total of 19 staffers were let go, and three more vacant positions were permanently eliminated. All told, About reduced its headcount by about 10 percent.

In recent months About.com has taken measures to cut costs in the face of falling ad revenue. It instituted a hiring freeze, halted merit raises, reduced its use of contractors, and cut back on travel and other discretionary expenses.

The moves apparently failed to meet the company’s rising challenges. In a memo to employees, Cella Irvine, president and CEO of The About Group, said the company intends to provide severance packages, counseling, and job search assistance to those affected.

“As a business that celebrates and promotes the importance of people, this was an extraordinarily difficult decision,” Irvine wrote. “It was reached carefully, reflectively, and with full attention to the needs of our team members, our business and our customers.”

Irvine took over last July ago after a two-year stint as chief administrative officer at Digitas. At the time she told ClickZ her top priority would be to increase display ad revenue. Unfortunately for About, the intervening seven months have been tough on display ad sellers. Ad prices have fallen and advertisers have reduced their spending on banner ads in favor of more performance-driven methods, especially search.

About.com’s content is generated by topic experts, known as Guides, who provide information and advice on subjects as varied as business management, motorcycles, and Africa. The About Group also includes Calorie-Count.com, ConsumerSearch.com, and UCompareHealthCare.com.

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